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Golden Hill volunteer: Cedar Street will be worth the wait

 

NORWALK, Conn. – It’s “one customer a day, sometimes nothing” for Cedar Street barber Joesph Buono, meaning there’s plenty of time to watch the construction going on just beyond the brand new concrete walkway leading up to his underutilized front door.

That includes, recently, men with shovels using a backhoe to lift granite curbs into place around the island just across the way, at the corner of Fairfield Avenue, and construction workers allowing one lane of traffic to go by at a time, or diverting people down a side street. This, just beyond the newly created handicapped access ramp on the corner, and the parking spaces created one paver at a time.

It’s been very tough for Buono and other Cedar Street merchants, Golden Hill Association President Jim DelGreco agreed. They have been struggling since the beginning of October, when Deering Construction began work on the project planned for a decade, but Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord said the end is in sight.

“I was out there today. They’ve started setting the curbs on the south side, so they’re still ahead of where they (expected to be),” Alvord said Monday, predicting a completion date for the roadwork sometime in June.

Norwalk merchants Joseph Buono, left, and Harold Mccready, right.
Norwalk merchants Joseph Buono (left) and Harold Mccready.

Not soon enough for Buono, 91, who said, “Once you lose your customers, you never get them back, especially when you get old.”

His landlord, former Norwalk Councilman Harold Mccready, had philosophical thoughts on the topic.

“It’s a pain in the neck right now, no question, but I think it’s going to be very nice when it’s finished,” he said. “I will say, though, that things like this happen because of the downturn in our private sector economy. We are having massive government spending to keep the money pouring, to keep the people in jobs. If I had called the city of Norwalk two years ago and told them that I needed a new sidewalk in front of my building, they would have said, ‘what are you talking about? You have to do it yourself. We don’t do that.’”

DelGreco said that is partially true.

Association members thought they were ahead of the game with the planning they were doing, but had to scramble when the Obama administration sent stimulus money toward Interstate 95, he said.

“We realized that this was the perfect opportunity to get this stuff done and literally change the whole look of that area over a two-year period,” he said. “We pushed for the timing to get Cedar Street done while the Cedar Street bridge was closed. That was a critical thing. We kept saying, ‘You’ve got to do this while the Cedar Street bridge is closed because closing Cedar Street is going to affect the merchants. It would be horrible for everybody concerned if the bridge was down for two years and then we do the renovation on the street. It all needs to be done at the same time.’ … We literally couldn’t get the city timing right with the bridges closed down. It really has had a huge impact on the merchants, which we’re very sorry about.”

The South Western Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA) has long-range plans to upgrade Taylor and Fairfield avenues for a unified streetscape, he said.

“I have to look at the positive point from this,” he said. “When this street gets done it’s really going to be beautiful. Eventually you’re going to see a whole change from literally exit 14 right down Fairfield Avenue, including Cedar. It’s going to have a wonderful feel, like you’re coming into South Norwalk and that we’re part of the downtown Washington Street area. Again, the shame about this is that we just couldn’t get the whole thing timed. … The eventual outcome, I personally feel, and we all do, that the outcome is going to be worth the headaches that we went through to get there.”

Alvord explained that the Cedar Street project involves an extensive facelift.

“It’s going to look beautiful,” he said. “You’re going to have brick pavers in your parking areas. You’re going to have a lot of additional parking from what they used to have, and I mean good parking that isn’t people sitting on sidewalks and blocking driveways and all of that kind of stuff. You’re going to have historic light posts. You’re going to have trees, and Adopt a Spot. You’re going to have good drainage so there aren’t puddles sitting on the road.”

Right now, to use a home construction analogy, the caulking is done and the paint is being put on the wall, DelGreco said.

Taking care of the infrastructure under the road – and across the bridges, which included water lines – was massive, he said.

“You’ve got 150-year-old sewer lines that have to be separated, because half the stuff in the old part of town, the drainage lines, the sewer lines, they’re all together. You can’t do the road before you can do the infrastructure,” he said.

The work included “a hole that had to be two stories deep and 25 yards wide” for a while, DelGreco said.

“I can’t tell you how tough this has been for everybody,” he said. “Because there has not been the coordination … But what are you going to do? You’re either going to push forward to get something done for your community or you’re just going to say ‘OK, we’ll just leave it like it’s been for the last 50 years in the horrible condition it’s been in.’”

Norwalk Cedar Street
Norwalk’s Cedar Street.

Comments

9 responses to “Golden Hill volunteer: Cedar Street will be worth the wait”

  1. John Hamlin

    This will be a huge improvement to that area. This is precisely the sort of thing the City should be pursuing.

  2. SMH

    This is a nice story and obviously an excellent improvement for an area that could really use it. Hang in there Mr. Buono & Mr. McCready !!

    @NoN Where were these people and the reporters when the pseudo tough guy politico pena went and staged his little drama act back in the fall? About how the Latinos were getting screwed over by this project? Why didn’t any of these people point out what a great project truly is?

    I suppose it had nothing to do with partisanship and throwin’ the occasional sucker punch.

  3. Mike Mushak

    It is a great project and I understand the city tried hard to coordinate but Mike Yeosak said there were circumstances beyond his control. Warren Pena had a legitimate concern for his constituents in the fall, Latino and non-Latino, because businesses were told that there would be NO street closings but then suddenly the street was closed several times for hours at a time, sometimes whole days, without any warning from the city or the contractor. The reason was explained above by Jim DelGreco: separating ancient infrastructure under the street led to unexpected glitches requiring digging a hole that was bigger and deeper than anyone ever expected. Many businesses lost a lot of money and customers, including, we heard, a furniture refinishing shop that couldn’t get its shipment to Lilian August in time for a deadline, losing the entire order.
    .
    The business owners were rightly very furious, and Warren Pena got involved and we got promises for better communication all around. It was civil and everyone was as patient as they could be and it was absolutely appropriate for Pena to get involved and help.
    .
    In a related matter, in our many years of meetings with the city we were told that city engineers had little knowledge of the condition of utilities under Fairfield Ave as well as Cedar St.. Someone named “Mike” who commented on a NON story last week about the heavy truck weight limit that we proposed for Fairfield Ave made up a fact that is not true, that the utilities under Fairfield are newer than on Reed St. It just goes to show you how anonymous folks will spread lies to thwart noble causes in Norwalk, which is to protect public safety and health as well as protect ancient infrastructure around and underneath the densely built up residential corridor of Fairfield Ave from Exit 14 to Flax Hill, that also has a steep hill that is dangerous for huge trucks to navigate as well as reducing emergency response time for first responders. Norwalk can be a difficult city to get simple quality of life improvements done, but on Cedar St we are all excited for the results after 10 years of hard work and constant lobbying (it took the P and Z Department 6 years to pass a Village District here even though the neighborhood was completely on board with it and there was no opposition except from city staff and a couple of commissioners who were against village districts.)

  4. SMH

    @Mike Mushak Because it’s your neighborhood and your poli-party that makes it Ok? It was dirty politics. If you drove down that street you saw the orange cones that were put out last August. It was announced in the local paper. You make us laugh.

    ..

    Whatever “Mike” said about the infrastructure was possibly as inaccurate as your claim that ” In general, there are 3,000 people…” live along that stretch of Fairfield ave. Then you changed it to 2000 in your comments section. I don’t always agree with you, mainly because you tend to exaggerate the facts, however noble your stand may be, You lose your credibility by exaggerating.

    HYPERBOLE

    hy·per·bo·le

    noun
    1.
    exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

  5. Mike Mushak

    Approx. 2000 people live on Fairfield Ave and one property in on Cedar, Garner, Golden Hill St, and Couch. If you include just one block away, to include Bayview in the length parallel to Fairfield, distances averaging less than 300 feet away that are affected by the reduction in air quality and relentless noise as well as safety for the children who walk to bus stops on Fairfield in the morning and afternoon, then we have well over 3,000. We know our neighborhood well. When I say 3,000 people are directly affected I mean that. And whether it’s 2000 or 3000, will that make a difference to Hal Alvord you think? Will he say since only 2000 people live on Fairfield we don’t need to increase safety or improve air quality for these folks? Why be so nasty on this site about a much needed quality of life improvement? And why not use your real name? Are you afraid to be that nasty if we knew who you were? Lol!

  6. Mike Mushak

    Oh,SMH, by the way, your comment above ignores what I had just said. The city promised NO road closures at first. Then they did close them down many times. If you lived or worked on a street that was under construction and were told the same thing, them found out you or your customers couldn’t get in and out of the street and were literally trapped for hours, you would be very upset. They lost thousands of dollars and restaurants couldn’t get food deliveries and had to shut down. The early warnings from the city were for construction only, no closures. Even the city staff had no idea when the road was being closed as the contractor never told them either, and DPW was angry about it also. Warren Pena helped change that unacceptable situation. Again, why so nasty? People are being helped and you find that isn’t right? Isn’t that kind of pathetic? Why be such a troll? I just want to know what makes folks like you tick. Troubled childhood perhaps? There’s plenty of help out there!

  7. SMH

    @Mike Mushak – the city promised that the project would be done in 180 days too. You engaged me in a conversation then You suggested that I’m nasty and then ask if I had a troubled childhood? Maybe I did, but what business is that of yours? It’s quite easy to see why you are constantly, it seems more than anyone else, at odds with commentators here and Thehour.

  8. Suzanne

    Now, now, children. Play nice.

  9. Golden hill senior

    Shame all this time, effort and money is being expended replacing all the ancient infrastructure out if sight below the surface yet the poles and hanging wires from what, the 1920’s will still be there. Seems like it would’ve been a no brainer in the planning to seek cooperation from the for profit utility companies to bury the power and communications lines on Cedar but alas seems to be we do not have an abundance of brain power when it comes to smart planning. Anyone wanna bet that by December the brand new asphalt will be torn up?

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